There’s no doubt that a lot of new technology will be available in 2019, some of which might actually help you evaluate your results and put real value on your contributions. Let’s look at the details:
1. Marriages will produce some much-needed offspring.
If 2017 and 2018 were the years of measurement marriages, then, given the appropriate gestation period, 2019 should be the year that customers will actually see some offspring from those marriages—and maybe even reap some benefits. Whether those babies will be burdens or benefits remains to be seen, because, let’s face it, customers have long been losing patience with promised improvements to various platforms. Those that don’t show the benefits of integration will be the ones who will either fail altogether or be the next to be swept up into whatever companies are left.
If nothing else the marriages between social listening platforms and traditional media measurement companies will at least create more seamless environments from which corporate communications can view their results.
2. Some marriages will fill the function gap.
Most mergers today are filling gaps in portfolios. For example:
- Meltwater’s purchase of Sysomos and Data Sift will give it access to a huge amount of social media data as well as the ability to analyze it with greater accuracy.
- Cision’s addition of ShareIQ will add image search capabilities, an area in which it has long lagged behind competitors such as Talkwalker. At the same time, Cision’s purchase of Falcon.io puts it in direct competition with Hootsuite and will add social publishing capabilities to its existing PR Newswire products. It’s purchase of Trendkite adds yet another social media technology platform into its portfolio, which already includes Symphony and ViralHeat. Hard to imagine why they needed another one, but $225 million buys a lot of development talent.
- Traditional market research firm Ipsos’ acquisition of Synthesio will launch the company into the 21st century by providing their legendary professional services and polling company with some much-needed social listening capabilities.
- Brandwatch, long a leader in brand listening and measurement, purchased social listening tool Crimson Hexagon last September, presumably to enhance its machine learning capabilities to detect and identify brand attributes and themes. Which is something Crimson Hexagon pioneered when it launched a decade ago, but somehow lost its leadership luster along the way.
3. Some marriages will change the industry.
Cision bought Vocus in 2014, and ever since, Vocus customers have pined for their lost platform. They may have adopted Cision for release distribution and management, but looked elsewhere for measurement. That’s because Cision lacked a modern, integrated high-end offering that didn’t look like it had been created before SQL and modern UI were invented.
So Cision became the fast food chain of measurement, offering a variety of products that promised a nicely integrated and satisfying meal, but were mostly consumed like french fries with an occasional McNugget on the side. Its purchase of Prime Research a year ago puts it up in the Michelin 4-star category. Cision brought the deep pockets and broad marketing acumen while Prime delivered sophisticated dashboard technology and high-end expertise, as well as a global staff of in-country analysts and measurement experts. So the baby we can expect them to deliver is a high-end customizable enterprise offering that should be very attractive to many global brands.
4. There will still be no shortage of measurement vendors—which is why agencies should and will get out of the business.
A few years ago integrated communications agencies as well as PR firms were all desperate to offer research and evaluation to their customers. But today, more and more agencies are quietly abandoning those efforts. Maybe they simply didn’t understand how much money and talent and effort it would take to be in that space, or perhaps they realized it just wasn’t a good investment. Instead, they are white labeling external solutions or turning the task over to measurement companies with huge technical and IT resources.
The data is out there, and plentiful. So why would an agency spend the time and resources in-house to do what Cision or Talkwalker or Glean can do for a fraction of the cost? And what agency really has millions to invest in keeping their technology current? Measurement is a technical product these days, and agencies have never been known for IT acumen. So agencies are going back to their knitting and focusing on managing the process, doing some QA and QC of the data, and, we hope, adding insight.
5. Your vendor list will grow.
Because the data and the technology is so ubiquitous, the number of people playing in the PR and social media evaluation space is destined to grow. If you read the PRSA forums, you’ll be constantly surprised by someone using a company whose name you’ve never heard of. At least once a week I get contacted by a company that I may or may not have heard of to see if I want a demo. Some of them end up on our Vendor Selection Guide and some don’t, but the reality is that it’s a buyer’s market out there.
So next time you draw up a list of vendors and stop with the top three or four, keep digging. And start by checking this list out. I promise you it’s incomplete:
- Zignal Labs
- Critical Mention
- Universal Info
- LexisNexis Newsdesk
- RMP Media Analysis
- NetBase Solutions
- Muck Rack
- Social Studio (Salesforce’s update of Radian 6)
- News Data Services